On September 15, the fifth annual Bines & Brews Hopfest in Monument, Colorado, celebrates a niche style of fresh hop beers in a rendezvous type setting with 13 local breweries, a cider house and two area distilleries. The unusually warm Colorado day welcomes a crowd of less than 350 beer drinkers that leisurely tastes and mingles in scenic Limbach Park amidst a picturesque, mountainous back drop.
RMFR catches up with Josh Howard, a judge at Bines & Brews, co-host for Focus on the Beer podcast and president of the Brew Brothers of Pikes Peak, who shares his appreciation for the cozy event and an assessment of what makes wet hop beers both unpredictable and palatable.
“It’s easily one of the best small local festivals,” says Howard. “It flies under the radar and tries to keep it that way.”
Howard articulates that this category of beers can be somewhat difficult to discern because of “a certain degree of unknown” with fresh hops due to capricious weather patterns and alterations in the terroir that vastly affects the end result.
“It’s a bit of a wild card and the flavor profiles can change which makes judging them a little bit challenging,” says Howard. “One year it may present a little more pine, the next year there may be more citrus, the next it may throw a little bit of onion at you.”
The guidelines for the competing breweries are not stringent but do require all submissions to utilize fresh (or whole) hops sourced from Marigold Valley Hops in Cripple Creek, Colorado, capable of supplying a sufficient variety for all of the participants. Howard says that the panel of judges hones in on three main criteria:
- Does it adhere to the style?
- Does it present fresh hop character?
- Is it enjoyable and would I want more of it?
“It’s a two-fold thing,” says Howard. “There was a case to be made for quite a few beers that had that hop quality but you also have to say, ‘how much of this do I want to drink?’ There were some that you could really tell had that hop character but, was it balanced? We try to judge the beers on how well they capture that fresh hop character and also make sure it’s tasty and enjoyable.”
Based on the judges final tallies and votes cast by festival goers, the following breweries claim titles at Bines & Brews Hopfest 2018 for their articulate presentation of the perfect middle ground: